The City Council is considering a proposal to install a series of solar power arrays on five city properties around New London.
The proposal calls for the city to lease portions of city property to Sun Edison LLC for 20 years and purchase electricity from the company at a premium rate. The city would not invest capital toward the installation of the panels, which would be completed by the autumn of 2013.
The Finance Committee and City Council took no action on the proposal, deciding to revisit it at a special meeting on May 29.
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Finance Director Jeff Smith said the city would save a projected $750,000 to $2.2 million over the next 20 years by purchasing electricity from Sun Edison at a cheaper rate than it currently pays. Andrew R. Merola, energy and program development manager of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, said Enfield and East Hartford are also considering arrays.
Paul F. Curran, managing director of Sun Edison, said that while the size of some properties is limiting the number of panels that can be installed, the company would limit the size of the arrays on larger sites to provide no more than 60 percent of a nearby facility’s power. The proposed sites are:
- A 336-kilowatt array in the parking lot of
- A 144-kilowatt array on the roof of the
- A 128-kilowatt array on the roof and in the parking lot of
- A 108-kilowatt array on the roof and in the parking lot of the
- A 48-kilowatt array in the parking lot
The parking lot arrays would be elevated 13 feet off the ground to allow vehicles to park beneath them. They are also designed to hold 51 pounds of snow per square foot and have rain and snowmelt drain toward the center. The bases are protected to withstand potential vehicle impacts.
Curran said the panels would be stationary and require little maintenance.
“The first solar panels were made about 55 years ago and they’re still in place on top of the Boston Museum of Science,” he said.
Curran said the rates the city would pay are being kept confidential since the city is applying to the Low and Zero Emissions Renewable Energy Credit Program. The program, run by Connecticut Light and Power and the United Illuminated Company, has set a deadline of June 12 for request for proposals.
“It’s important to both us and the city that we keep the competitive advantage,” said Curran.
The item before the council asked the City Council to authorize Mayor Daryl Finizio to execute a contract with Sun Edison agreeing to the construction of the arrays as well as a 20-year lease and electricity purchasing agreement. The resolution said the contract would be contingent on approval from the law and finance directors as well as administrative authorizations and approvals.
Councilor Adam Sprecace said the project needs a change of use permit from the Planning and Zoning Commission to proceed, and that he wants more input from the public. He said he was also concerned with the length of the contract.
“I think it’s a little early,” said Sprecace. “I’d like to see it addressed before the clock strikes midnight [on the RFP], but there are a lot of outstanding issues.”
Councilor Marie Friess-McSparran was concerned that the agreement allows the company to use city property without paying rent. Councilor John Maynard said he thought the item should have been addressed sooner.
“If we knew there was a timeline on this, it should have been brought before the council long before tonight,” he said.
Council President Michael Passero asked the council not to reject the proposal outright, saying councilors will be able to discuss the proposed rates at an executive session on May 29.
“It’s a complicated proposal, but at the same time I don’t think we should give up on it,” he said.
The council voted unanimously to postpone the matter to its May 29 meeting.